When the educated, prudent Imran Khan supporter is asked for her views on the unbelievably grand proclamation of the ‘dear leader’ stating that he will uproot corruption in 19 days and eradicate terrorism in 90 days, there are always two slants, often one after the other. The devotee will inevitably begin by arguing how Imran Khan will unquestionably and quite breezily achieve the said objectives in the self-stipulated time period. If the line of reasoning is further pursued (or reasoning used at all), they will gingerly and sheepishly concede that statements might not be susceptible to literal implementation, but making an invigorated comeback, state that he is better than everyone else and has built a cancer hospital and who else could they vote for etc? At this point a smirk breaks out on the face of the PTI foot-soldier; to them it is the clincher. The best argument for Imran Khan is something which can be vaguely phrased as some notion of the ‘lesser evil’. There is some difficulty in grasping the concept of how the subsequent quantitative judgment about less or more is precisely made, once the qualitative determination of ‘evilness’ has been reached.
Let me be plain on the matter, the proclamations of Imran Khan on corruption and terrorism and the arbitrary, flashy deadlines are untrue on their face. They require no elaborate refutation, and a child of 10 having average intelligence should see through them, unless of course they have uncritical love blinding them. This brings us to the question of motive, here again an unflattering binary is unavoidable; either he is lying by design or he does not possess the fortitude to understand and realize what he says. At a core level, it is a choice between deceit and self-deceit. I do not think Imran Khan is fantastically intelligent, but he is decent by cricketer/politician standard. Hence, because he is not severely mentally handicapped, it is safe to say that he does know what he promises is not only undoable, it is impossible that he will get anywhere close to these deadlines in the best of circumstances. The blatant misrepresentations cannot be attributed to Spartan simple-mindedness or childlike innocence; it is done with complete knowledge. Therefore, even to put it at its mildest, Imran Khan is deliberately and consciously lying.
The spirited defence of this lie telling would be, even if he is, so what, all politicians lie, at least he is not corrupt etc. That maybe so, but the mediocrity of his lies is really the crowning insult. It is either sheer laziness or he takes all of us for mere peasants (used metaphorically, as he has little to do with the real peasants). All politicians lie in Pakistan, but Imran Khan does it with a self-righteous impunity and feels he can go completely over the top. All of us, even his supporters, perhaps especially his supporters, should take some offence. George Bush, once reportedly mutilated and modified the famous words of Lincoln by saying, “you can fool some people all of the time, and those are the ones you would want to concentrate on”. To not acknowledge or confront all of this will make the PTI more ‘cultish’ than any other party on which the same charge is levelled by them. It has one slightly deep implication as well, it reduces all politics to apology and trickery, turns it into a circus. Maybe it was true for our politics before the Kaptaan came along, but he is certainly raising the intensity and lowering the bar for hypocrisy. The leaden irony here is that he does all of this, while continuing with his anti-politician and even anti-politics, GHQ-favouring rhetoric.
Imran Khan further believes that the Taliban are not a threat to Pakistan, and reciprocally the Taliban now believe Khan to be a good chap; it is really getting quite mushy. Before one gets all moist and husky at this love affair, also bear in mind that Khan believes that liberals are the “scum” of Pakistan and are the most despicable and dangerous group. Never mind the minorities; they are not a sufficient percentage of the electorate for even superficial consolations to be advanced to them. If it is possible to ‘out-Taliban’ the Taliban themselves, this is it. Sympathiser or apologist might be ineffective for the purpose of conveying real meaning. Not those “brothers” of ours blowing mosques, hospitals and schools up, the real threat is from the uncovered ladies, the Marxists and the whisky drinkers etc who are really to be taken to task. The logic of this should be obvious. And this is the party dominated by the urban elite and with a large proportionate representation of smart, educated women. An amusing denial of this is, that he is really faking it only to get power, once he does, he will go all Mustafa Kamal Ataturk on us. Hold your laughter though; the joke might be on us.
Imran Khan speaks of his fondness for the Taliban, Islamic welfare state (what that exactly is remains a historical mystery), liberal scum and female emancipation, progressive thought etc in the same breath, with complete absence of any embarrassment. Triangulation, a term perhaps most popularly used by Christopher Hitchens in regards to the politics of Bill Clinton is the concept of taking a few, best and most populist notion from both ends of the ideological spectrum and create a non-ideological, non-principled middle ground. In Imran Khan’s case it is certainly triangulation, however, it seems that he is drawing disproportionately heavily from the ultra-religious right rhetoric.
The relative rise of Imran Khan has brought another disturbing and anti-democratic tendency to our already sordid political culture. Any argument against Imran Khan is addressed by attacking the credibility of the accuser or the questioner, often in disobliging terms. This leaning towards the ad hominem is unmistakably indicative of a fascist tendency. Imran Khan cannot and should not be given a free pass to get away with the crudest of lies and terrorist apology.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.